An Evil Index for AI

The article below is not about Artificial Intelligence (AI). But it is about the ethics of algorithms that are likely to be used as building blocks in developing AI. Algorithms use decision trees to function and if the decision points embed a bias, the results are likely to be biased. If the subset of data being used at decision points has been selected with a bias, the decisions are likely to be biased. The same thing applies to the subset of data being analyzed by the algorithm.

Don’t write evil algorithms – [practicalethics.ox.ac.uk]

Google is said to have dropped the famous “Don’t be evil” slogan. Actually, it is the holding company Alphabet that merely wants employees to “do the right thing”. Regardless of what one thinks about the actual behaviour and ethics of Google, it seems that it got one thing right early on: a recognition that it was moving in a morally charged space.

Google is in many ways an algorithm company: it was founded on PageRank, a clever algorithm for finding relevant web pages, scaled up thanks to MapReduce algorithms, use algorithms for choosing adverts, driving cars and selecting nuances of blue. These algorithms have large real world effects, and the way they function and are used matters morally.

Can we make and use algorithms more ethically?

We know that computer malware (viruses) is mostly written with evil intent. But it is also possible to encode bias and prejudice into algorithms when the coder has no such intent and may even not be aware of their own bias or how the algorithm can implement it. We spell check documents and syntax error check programming code. Eventually, we will also need ethics checker tools. It’s clear that humanity can use some advice on ethical decisions. But if the tool that is supplying the advice has it’s own built in flaws, the advice will be flawed. We will need to be able to evaluate the ethical state of algorithms that give us advice before we can trust the advice.

SEE ALSO:
Using AI in the Development of Ethics
Artificial Ethics
Ethics is the Best Measure of Civilization

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